Minal Damani - Profile

Minal Damani - Profile

Jasmine Shah Varma

It must be fun living inside Minal Damani’s head. Minal is a 31-year-old artist who describes her work as “imagery of a fabricated world, where the real and the imaginary co-exist without lines of separation.” Unlike many other artists, she doesn’t look for social or political narratives in her work—it’s more personal than that. “My works are about creating filled spaces,” she says. “It’s like exploiting every inch of space available by spreading or growing another space—another reality—another universe in the existing one. These underneath growths co-exist with the real. In a room that is completely filled with furniture and other things, spiders find untouched spaces to weave a web—or like a cockroach in a key hole. Nothing is unfilled.” If you were to look for immediate patterns or identifiable forms you’d see organic landscapes, aerial views of the earth or floor tiles.
Minal was born and brought up in Mumbai, studied in the JJ School of Art, hung out in the canteen there, visited art exhibitions, attended talks about art and sometimes bunked classes to watch movies because “the theaters were so near to JJ.” She also won awards early on, even then demonstrating an unusual imagination. In 2006, she met Apurba Nandi, an artist from Baroda, at an art camp. After they wedded she shifted base in 2007 from one center of art to another, and now lives in Baroda. The difference between the bustling metropolis she left and the sleepy city she now lives in is not a contradiction she is unfamiliar with: her work is all about different kinds of spaces, from filled spaces to voids to personal space to physical space.
The studio she works in has large paper and canvases sprawled on the floor, and a first time visitor would be startled by the meticulous detail they contain. She has also extended her repertoire to installations which physically fill up a space rather than being limited to two-dimensional wall works. Her painstakingly intricate works take up to a month each to complete, and it’s easy to imagine her spending hours leaning over these canvases, filling them up, bit by bit, as people fill up their lives and heads. She sees art as “a very complex thing. You resolve one part of it and the other part is jumbled.” That sounds like life itself, and Minal‘s art is, perhaps, a bit like that. “I like to work in between the edges,” she says—and indeed, her work is edgy and relevant. When she was growing up in the Mumbai’s eastern suburb Ghatkopar, surrounded by Gujarati traders, could anyone have predicted that she would be producing work like this? Well, maybe—if they could have glanced inside her head.